Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology, Canada

The Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology is located in the City of Hamilton’s first waterworks, completed in 1859.  Responding to devastating cholera epidemics in the mid-19th Century, the waterworks operated for 51 years and saved thousands of lives by providing access to clean water for all inhabitants.

The waterworks was powered by two 65,000kg 15m high steam engines.  They are the oldest surviving Canadian-made engines. The site is the most intact preserved 19th Century waterworks in North America.

The museum interprets the history of public works and water sustainability through public tours, exhibits and special events.  The museum also interprets the industrial heritage of the area and, therefore, interprets both the economic impact of access to clean water and the pressure on the resource from industrial development.

The museum is one component of the Hamilton Civic Museums, a portfolio of 9 facilities owned by the municipality.  They include 6 designated National Historic Sites, 1 local community museum, 1 Children’s Museum and 1 military museum.  As a network, they are mandated to preserve, present and sustain the heritage of Hamilton while improving the lives of Hamiltonians.  More than 225,000 visitors experience the museums every year.

While the work of SDG #6 is centered on the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology, all units of the Hamilton Civic Museums are engaged.  Of note is the work of the Dundurn National Historic Site in strengthening relationships with indigenous groups and embracing indigenous knowledge.

The municipal government is committed to the 4 pillars of sustainability (social, environmental, economic and cultural) in all its practice.  The work of the museum system reflects this commitment.


Hamilton Harbour Water Walk

This annual event is led by indigenous people to bring attention to the work of the waters of the harbour to sustain and provide for us.

Hamilton Harbour Tours

Boat tours of Hamilton Harbour.

Hamilton Halton Brant Explore the Bruce Trail

Variety of single day and multi-day explorations of the Niagara Escarpment watershed.




Planning an other Research Activities

Our most innovative work is in the area of planning:

  1. Risk Management and mitigation assessments for an underwater archaeological site threatened by invasive mussel species.
  2. Developing Commemorative Integrity Statements for our National Historic Sites (essentially defining the significance of the site for planning purposes)
  3. 10-year capital project planning for heritage maintenance, restoration and development
  4. Community Engagement in the development of a strategy for the Hamilton Civic Museums]

Hamilton Children’s Water Festival Halton Children’s Water Festival

Two large outreach public programmes designed to engage elementary level students to water issues and water sustainability.  The Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology partners with many other groups under the leadership of local and regional water/waste water authorities in the delivery of the program.



Virtual Tours

The Virtual Tour program responds to the many challenges our community can face to interact directly with our museums.  Some people are simply unable to visit the museums physically or navigate through the spaces.  The virtual tours provide additional and enhanced information on the site.  The tours also allow the visitor to see the site holistically and to control the flow of information.

One of the Hamilton museums is an archaeological site in 80 meters of water. The museum exists, then, almost entirely as a virtual museum.  Despite that depth, the site is challenged by pollution and infestation of an exotic mussel species.



School and Community-Based Programs

As a core mandate, the Hamilton Civic Museums and the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology assign significant staff and material resources to the development and implementation of school programs derived from the provincial educational curricula documents.   In addition, the local scouting and guiding community has identified priorities in sustainability and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).



World Toilet Day and World Water Day in Hamilton

In partnership with Hamilton Water, the municipal water and waste water treatment plants, the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology offers a wide range of public programs to mark World Toilet Day and World Water Day.


Heritage Protection for in situ Water Heritage

In Canada, heritage protection is, generally speaking, a provincial jurisdiction.  In Ontario (where Hamilton is located), the Heritage Act is primarily focused on built heritage and archaeology.  Led by museum staff, it was, therefore, a very significant achievement to secure protection for surviving in situ water heritage artifacts.  Of equal significance was the designation of the 1859 water reservoir which, although intact, had no heritage protection of any kind.


Embedding the History of Water into the Local Community

This project worked to incorporate the surviving original water main track into the city’s parks and open space inventory.  The strong focus on community engagement deepened the connection between vibrant neighbourhoods and the city’s past and present of water management.